How to deal with violent outbursts during fits of frustration (i.e.: hitting, throwing stuff, yelling). Especially at school. Obviously prevention is key, but any tips would be helpful.
Some research studies have shown that people with Asperger’s Syndrome may exhibit violent behaviour; yet, other studies have indicated the opposite. More research to obtain consistent conclusions is needed in this area as it has not been adequately studied.
You are not the only parent to have observed such behaviour in your child. Whether it is due to Asperger’s Syndrome or is a co-existing psychiatric disorder remains to be seen. In the meantime, you need to know how to deal with your child’s aggression and violent outbursts.
When a child behaves inappropriately, he is fulfilling the need to do one or more of the following:
- Avoid something that needs to be done, such as going to school or obeying a parent;
- Get something like his or her own way or attention;
- Manage pain and reduce feelings of psychological hurt or physical discomfort;
- Fulfill a sensory need, perhaps feelings of hot, cold, thirst, or hunger.
Reasoning or debating an issue with your child to justify your expectations will not change her behaviour. She wants to satisfy her needs, not satisfy your wants. She is not likely to empathize with you or acknowledge anyone’s objections to her behaviour. You need to be “concrete” with her. In other words, tell her that the inappropriate thing she wants or the unacceptable behaviour that she is demonstrating is not allowed. She needs to follow structured, consistent rules which will assist in modifying her behaviour. Don’t give in to hitting, throwing things, or yelling, no matter how hard it is not to.
One way to stop aggression is through the use of behaviour modification. You must determine what need the aggression is fulfilling, and then teach her a replacement behaviour that will satisfy the need. For example, if your child wants a glass of water, she can be taught to ask for or point to the source of water. Also, you can design an emotion card which shows a glass of water, and she can point to it. Some children use PECS, a non-verbal system of communication to indicate their wants and needs.
The importance of maintaining a daily routine cannot be overstressed. Consistent behaviours, obligations, etc. will help reduce your child’s aggressive and violent behaviours. Daily routine creates stability and comfort for Asperger’s children; also, it helps to lessen their need to make demands on you. When you establish a routine, you eliminate some of the situations in which your daughter becomes demanding. For example, by building in regular times to give her attention, she may have less need to show aggression to try to get your attention.
Children who get what they want because of their violence or aggression are very likely to continue and escalate that behaviour. In time, your child must learn to appropriately communicate the cause of her aggression and get her needs met through that communication.
A behaviour-modification program may help your daughter. This program must be designed for individual children because people with Asperger’s Syndrome vary greatly in their handicaps and family circumstances. Please note that some treatment approaches that work in certain cases may not work in others. Also, children with Asperger’s have difficulty generalizing learned experiences from one setting to another. As a result, the skills they learned in a hospital or school tend not to be transferred to the home or other settings.
Asperger’s Syndrome and Difficult Moments: Practical Solutions for Tantrums, Rage and Meltdowns – Revised and Expanded Edition by Brenda Smith Myles & Jack Southwick is a great place to learn more on the subject.
This expanded edition of this bestselling book offers parents and professionals many solutions to minimize and/or prevent the rage cycle of the child with Asperger’s Syndrome.
This excellent resource also focuses on the behaviours and reactions of the adults in the child’s life and emphasizes the importance of teachable moments before and after a rage.